No matter your reason for visiting, Dublin’s many attractions cater for everyone. History buffs looking to brush up on the city’s storied past will be delighted by the Little Museum of Dublin. Admirers of art or theatre are sure to make a beeline for the National Gallery and the Gaiety Theatre, while sports fans won’t want to skip the Aviva Stadium.
Although Dublin lives up to its reputation as one of the most expensive cities to visit, it does boast an array of attractions that are free to visit, including St Stephen‘s Green, the National Botanic Gardens and Phoenix Park, among others.
Where to Stay in Dublin
Option 1. This Dublin hotel on Pearse Street. You could spend the whole time exploring central Dublin from your base here and never have to set foot on – or have to pay for – public transport.
Option 2. This hotel in Smithfield is known for its proximity to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Phoenix Park, the Guinness Storehouse and other well-known sights. You’re also just a stone’s throw from some of the excellent pub grub in Stoneybatter.
Between its museums, literary legacy, historic landmarks and architecture, Dublin is a city perfect for exploring and a magnet for all things culture. From the iconic to the off the beaten path, here are our top must-visit attractions in Ireland’s capital (outside of the obvious ones we’ve name-checked earlier, of course!)
5 Popular Dublin Attractions
Onto the good stuff: Our line up of Dublin city’s top attractions you can’t miss when you take a trip here.
1. Dublin Castle
Smack bang in the middle of the city, Dublin Castle once upon a time was the seat of British rule in Ireland. If you’re visiting Dublin for the first time and hoping to take in a bit of history, then a stop at Dublin Castle is a must. Over the centuries, buildings have been added, hence the eclectic amalgam of architectural styles throughout the castle, ranging from medieval to Georgian. Afterwards, you can enjoy a cup of coffee or lunch overlooking the castle gardens at Dublin Terrace Café. Guided tours are available for €12 per person.
2. Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol is one of Dublin’s top tourist attractions. Probably the most infamous gaol in Irish history (and the largest Vistorian gaol still standing in Europe), it’s where some of the most famous political leaders in Irish history have been incarcerated over the years. As a result, it has a strong connection to the Irish struggle for independence.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the gaol to uncover what life was really like for prisoners here. Fair warning: A sense of hopeless despair still hangs thick in the air throughout the dungeon corridors and grim cells, and feels almost palpable to visitors. Entry fees start at €4 for children under 12, all the way up to €20 for a family.
3. Dublin Zoo
A visit to Dublin Zoo, the third-oldest zoo in the world, is a must for any animal-loving tourist in Dublin. Whether you’re keen to bask in the shadow of some magnificent beasts or see something much cuter, there are plenty of cool creatures (over 400 species, in fact!) to keep everyone occupied here.
But it’s not just Dublin Zoo itself that offers a wealth of entertainment for visitors to the area. It just so happens to be located in Phoenix Park, one of Europe’s biggest city parks and the imposing residence of the Irish president, Aras An Uachtarain. Admission to the zoo costs from €14 per child to €19.50 per adult on the day, but you can get a bit of a discount by booking in advance online.
4. Malahide Castle & Gardens
One of Dublin’s most iconic features is the numerous castles and stately homes that can be found in all the nooks and crannies of the county, many of which also boast incredible grounds to explore. If you love a good castle and going for a wander, why not combine the two with a visit to Malahide?
One of Ireland’s oldest castles, Malahide Castle has a real medieval feel, with a walled garden you can stroll through and feel like you’ve fallen 800 years into the past. Spend as long or short a time as you please exploring the 250 acres of parkland around the castle grounds. Afterward, we recommend heading down for a relaxing walk along the Malahide coastline.
5. Museum of Modern Art
One of Dublin’s many magnificent (and free) art museums, the Irish Museum of Modern Art houses the Irish national collection of modern art and is a treasure trove for lovers of modern and contemporary art. The building, based in Kilmainham, is a converted 17th century hospital and draws inspiration for its impressive facade from one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture, Les Invalides in Paris.
IMMA hosts regular exhibitions featuring the cutting-edge art of our time from celebrated Irish and international artists. There’s a fantastic shop and café on site, too.
5 Quirky and Hidden Spots in Dublin
But if you’re looking for a more unique and local experience and want to discover a different side of Dublin, you may like this selection of some of the less visited places. Without further ado, here are the hidden gems of Dublin.
1. National Leprechaun Museum
Ireland’s long history is marked by ancient mythology and folklore, and nowhere is this more evident than at the National Leprechaun Museum, aptly named after the country’s most enduring myth.
Ireland’s rich mythology is about far more than just leprechauns, though. This museum takes visitors on an interactive guided tour through 12 themed rooms, which include a journey deep under the rocks of the Giant’s Causeway and even a visit to a fairy hill.
A great Dublin attraction for the whole family, the museum is open daily with family rates available for €40. (Heads up: Dublin is an especially family-friendly city to visit, so be sure to check out our blog on other kid-friendly things to do there!)
2. Dublin Writers’ Museum
There’s no better way to honour Dublin’s rich literary heritage than a visit to the Writers’ Museum. Situated in an 18th century house near Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square, visitors here can explore a fascinating array of early editions of works, as well as personal objects from Irish literary luminaries like Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett and Patrick Kavanagh.
3. Winding Stair Bookshop
As the home to some of the world’s most influential writers, Dublin is a magnet for book lovers. While many happy hours can disappear exploring the masterpieces that are packed into Trinity College Library, if you’re more in the mood for a rummage in one of Dublin’s most iconic literary shrines, then you won’t go too far wrong with a visit to the Winding Stair Bookshop.
Located by the Ha’penny bridge, the shelves here are bursting at the seams with new and second-hand books spanning a wealth of genres and niche literature. And just when you think you’ve explored every corner, there’s more to: One of Dublin’s top-rated restaurants is just upstairs!
4. Arbour Hill Cemetery
While a cemetery doesn’t seem like an obvious attraction to visit on a day out in Dublin (and Glasnevin Cemetery is typically the most visited one in the city), Arbour Hill Cemetery is our must-see historic graveyard for Dublin tourists.
The final resting place of many of the executed leaders of the ill-fated 1916 Easter Rising, this is a good spot for a long afternoon walk for Kilmainham Gaol visitors looking to discover even more about this troubled era in Irish history.
5. Ghost Bus Tour
The Ghostbus Tour is a theatrical sightseeing tour that takes you on a macabre journey through the darker side of Dublin… on board a doubledecker bus! This city has seen more than its fair share of murderers, bodysnatchers and paranormal activity in its time and isn’t short of a good hair-raising story or two.
This tour also takes in a bunch of haunted locations throughout Dublin, including a medieval vault under Dublin Castle and a hidden graveyard. If you’re feeling brave enough, this is definitely one to book in advance. Tickets are €28 per person.
What About Getting Around Dublin?
Dublin is a notoriously difficult city to drive in, with a ton of traffic and a distinct lack of parking options. However, there are plenty of ways to get around Dublin that don’t require a car. We recommend public transport such as Dublin Bus or the Luas (Dublin’s tram system) – you can get unlimited travel on either of these by purchasing a Leap Visitor Card.
Renting bicycles is another popular option. Fortunately for visitors, many of the most popular attractions in Dublin are all located pretty centrally, making navigation in the city a little bit easier on tourists who may be new to the area. We heartily recommend this Dublin attractions map (or good ol’ Google Maps) if you’re struggling to find your way around the city’s monuments, museums and attractions.
One final thing: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things to do and points of interest to see in Dublin, consider signing up for one of the city’s tours, such as a Viking Splash Tour – you can even enjoy the guidance of a local for free!
Note: All admission prices listed above are correct as of June 2019.